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Alas poor Win7, I knew him ...

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2015 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: win7, extended support, the cycle of life, inevitable

Sigh, the end draws nigh for that most common of desktop operating systems, Windows 7, has moved into Extended Support.  This follows the move at Halloween from an active product to one no longer available but is not the final straw for the OS which is currently scheduled for 2020.  The Inquirer quotes a source which places the current market share of Win7 at just over 56% globally, far above the currently selling Win8.1 but this number will slowly begin to fall, likely at a quicker pace than did WinXP's share.  When a Windows product reaches Extended Support it still receives security patches and serious bug fixes, albeit at a slower pace than when it is current so don't worry that your Win7 boxen will be dying any time soon but it does make it even more worthwhile to familiarize yourself with Windows 10 as new machines will be running that OS very soon.  Drop by The Inquirer for other upcoming dates, such as the final nail in Vista's coffin.

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"WINDOWS 7 has reached an important milestone that begins its long, slow descent into obscurity and eventually end of life, where it will doubtless continue to command more market share than its successor."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

LinkedIn Posts Hint at Radeon R9 380X Features, Stacked Memory

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 13, 2015 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: rumor, radeon, r9 380x, 380x

Spotted over at TechReport.com this morning and sourced from a post at 3dcenter.org, it appears that some additional information about the future Radeon R9 380X is starting to leak out through AMD employee LinkedIn pages.

Ilana Shternshain is a ASIC physical design engineer at AMD with more than 18 years of experience, 7-8 years of that with AMD. Under the background section is the line "Backend engineer and team leader at Intel and AMD, responsible for taping out state of the art products like Intel Pentium Processor with MMX technology and AMD R9 290X and 380X GPUs." A bit further down is an experience listing of the Playstation 4 APU as well as "AMD R9 380X GPUs (largest in “King of the hill” line of products)."

Interesting - though not entirely enlightening. More interesting were the details found on Linglan Zhang's LinkedIn page (since removed):

Developed the world’s first 300W 2.5D discrete GPU SOC using stacked die High Bandwidth Memory and silicon interposer.

Now we have something to work with! A 300 watt TDP would make the R9 380X more power hungry than the current R9 290X Hawaii GPU. High bandwidth memory likely implies memory located on the substrate of the GPU itself, similar to what exists on the Xbox One APU, though configurations could differ in considerable ways. A bit of research on the silicon interposer reveals it as an implementation method for 2.5D chips:

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Source: SemiWiki.com

There are two classes of true 3D chips which are being developed today. The first is known as 2½D where a so-called silicon interposer is created. The interposer does not contain any active transistors, only interconnect (and perhaps decoupling capacitors), thus avoiding the issue of threshold shift mentioned above. The chips are attached to the interposer by flipping them so that the active chips do not require any TSVs to be created. True 3D chips have TSVs going through active chips and, in the future, have potential to be stacked several die high (first for low-power memories where the heat and power distribution issues are less critical).

An interposer would allow the GPU and stacked die memory to be built on different process technology, for example, but could also make the chips more fragile during final assembly. Obviously there a lot more questions than answers based on these rumors sourced from LinkedIn, but it's interesting to attempt to gauge where AMD is headed in its continued quest to take back market share from NVIDIA.

Source: 3dcenter.org

Swiftech's new AIO cooler, the H220-X

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 12, 2015 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: swiftech, H220-X, AIO, watercooler

Swiftech has taken a new generation of their MCR radiators and paired it with the tried and tested Apogee XL waterblock in their new AIO watercooler, the H220-X.  At ~$170 it is more expensive than many competitors solutions and so will need to perform at higher levels in order to get a recommendation from [H]ard|OCP.  The cooler does offer some extras which the competition does not which helps justify the pricing, you can power up to eight fans with the included adapter which makes sense as the modular design of the H220-X allows you to add to the cooling loop if you so desire.  The performance was quite good especially when you consider how quiet the cooler operates at full load but as [H] mentions in their conclusion, the price is quite high and they saw the MSRP at a much lower $130.

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"Swiftech is a standard name in the computer hardware enthusiast arena. Today we review its answer to an enthusiast All-In-One CPU cooler. As you might guess it is strong on hardware, design, and purpose. The H220-X CPU Liquid Cooling Kit focuses on little to no noise while providing excellent cooling."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Using the embedded HD7850 to spot the next generation of gamers in the womb

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: ultrasound, opencl, hd 7850

The new bk3000 Ultrasound System from Analogic will use an embedded HD7850 and OpenCL to triple the quality of the information the ultrasound reveals.  This will allow ultrasounds to reveal anatomical detail and micro-vascularization that was not available with previous ultrasound technology and could even enable Gamegaters to locate their own heads with the use of the E14C4t transducer.  The most familiar usage of ultrasound is for displaying a fetus in utero but there are far more medical uses for this type of (mostly) non-invasive scan and the increase in detail and the transformation abilities that Open CL brings will not only make it more effective but could expand the usefulness of ultrasounds as a diagnostic tool.  As we at PC Perspective continue to age we are very appreciative of advances such as this, especially if we can get a split screen that allows us to do a little light gaming while the doctors poke and prod!

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SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Jan. 12, 2015 — AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) today announced that the AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU is enabling cutting-edge application performance for the BK Ultrasound, powered by Analogic, bk3000 ultrasound system. Analogic is a leader in developing healthcare and security technology solutions to advance the practice of medicine to save lives.

“The AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU with OpenCL provides a powerful and efficient pairing,” said Cameron Swen, segment marketing manager, medical applications, AMD Embedded Solutions. “This product is yet another proof point to AMD’s dedication to the healthcare segment through its technology, which helps facilitate crisp, detailed medical image visualization and other advanced graphics-driven capabilities, helping doctors provide improved care for patients.”

Analogic used OpenCL standard to gain access to the GPU for general-purpose computing, referred to as “GPGPU,” delivering exceptional performance and offering system and development cost reduction through cross-platform portability. As a result of using AMD GPU technology, Analogic achieved a 3x improvement in the amount of information in each ultrasound image and reduced time from capture to presentation. Traditional FPGAs and DSPs create a fixed, inflexible implementation that requires custom software targeted at specific hardware. Going to a software-based solution using OpenCL helps to further lower the development cost and provides improved long term value since the software can be used across product lines and through generation shifts.

“It was a critical design goal for us to implement a platform that delivered exceptional performance,” said Jacques Coumans, chief marketing and scientific officer, Analogic. “After reviewing the options available, we chose the AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU for its excellent quality and scalability. The bk3000 ultrasound system, powered by AMD embedded graphics technology, delivers exceptional speed and image fidelity, which allows clinicians to identify anatomy and flow dynamics deeper in challenging patients.”

The AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 is based on AMD’s award-winning Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture to advance the visual growth and parallel processing capabilities of embedded applications. In addition to ultrasound, other applications for GPGPU include some of the most complex parallel applications such as terrain and weather mapping, facial and gesture recognition, and biometric and DNA analysis.

The new Analogic bk3000 ultrasound system is targeted for urology, surgery, general imaging, and procedure guidance applications and is commercially available in key markets worldwide.

Source: AMD

Still wondering about adaptive refresh and why it matters to more than the 144Hz crowd?

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: freesync, amd

The Tech Report published a video of Freesync in action using a camera which records at 240 fps.  The subject material is running at less than the 60Hz that most of our monitors use which means that you can actually see what it does for you.  Watching the video at 60Hz you can see the tearing on the blades of the windmill as the actual frame rate of the render is 44 - 45Hz while when Freesync is active the matched frequencies do not cause any tearing.  The demonstration shows how Freesync can benefit lower end systems that are not going to push a 144Hz monitor to the limits, if you can only manage 40-50 fps in a game Freesync is going to make it much easier on your eyes.  You can catch our latest coverage of Freesync here.

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"We've been hearing about FreeSync, AMD's answer to Nvidia's G-Sync variable refresh display tech, for just over a year now. This week at CES, we finally got a chance to see FreeSync in action, and we used that opportunity to shoot some enlightening 240-FPS footage. We were able to find out some new specifics from AMD, as well."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Want to Build Two Systems in One Case? Then You Need the Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 12, 2015 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: phanteks, mini-itx, micro-atx, Enthoo Mini XL, enclosure, dual-motherboard, cases

Phanteks has introduced a computer enclosure with a new form-factor they are calling “super micro ATX”, a large alternative to standard mATX designs that has the advantage of supporting two complete systems within a single case.

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The second motherboard is supported via their ITX upgrade kit, and as the name indicates the second system must be built on the mini-ITX platform. While this might appeal to a very small market there is a need for running discrete systems for some users, and this design is certainly an interesting alternative to running two boxes. How it handles heat dissipation is a good question, but considering the “extreme cooling” capacity of the case - with up to 14x 120mm or 8x 140mm fan mounts - there would be plenty of room for a pair of AIO solutions to keep the CPU heat outside of the enclosure.

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The mini-ITX board is installed at the top (Image credit: cowcotland.com)

The enclosure’s dimensions are (WxHxD) 260mm x 550mm x 480mm (10.24” x 21.65” x 18.90”), and the feature list includes:

  • Dual removable hard drive cages
  • 2x removable Drop-N-Lock SSD brackets
  • Fully equipped with dustfilters (1x top, 1x front, 2x bottom)
  • Removable top panel for easy fan installation and dust filter cleaning
  • Compartment for fan installation in top panel
  • Clean cable management using Phanteks' preinstalled Hoop-N-Loop cable ties
  • Mod friendly structure uses screws NOT rivets
  • 10 color abient lighting controller
  • 2x USB 3.0, microphone, 3.5mm audio jack

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Two backplates! (Image credit: cowcotland.com)

For full specs see the product page at the Phanteks site. Pricing is not listed and searching for the product at the usual places doesn’t turn up any listings as of this morning.

Source: Phanteks

Two of Intel's CES Wearables Powered by ARM Processors

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2015 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: wearables, SoC, smartwatch, Intel, ces 2015, CES, arm

Wearable tech shown at this year's CES by Intel included the Intel MICA and Basis PEAK wearables, but a blog post from ARM is reporting that a pair of these devices are powered by an ARM SoC.

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The Intel MICA (Image credit: Intel)

ARM has posted pictures of teardowns from different wearable products, highlighting their presence in these new devices. The pictures we have taken from ARM's blog post show that it is not Intel at the heart of the two particular models we have listed below.

First is the Basis PEAK, and it actually makes a lot of sense that this product would have an ARM SoC considering Intel's aquisition of Basis occurred late in 2014, likely after the development of the PEAK had been completed.

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The Basis PEAK (Image credits: Basis, ARM)

Of course it is likely that Intel has plans to integrate their own mobile chips into future versions of wearable products like the PEAK.

Of some interest however is the SoC within their own MICA luxury wearable.

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The Intel MICA (Image credits: Intel, ARM)

For now, ARM is the industry standard for mobile devices and they are quick to point this out in their their blog post, writing "it’s important to remember that only ARM and its partners can meet the diversity requirements and fuel innovation in this space". Intel seems to be playing the "partner" role for now, though not exclusively as the company's mobile technology is powering the newest ASUS ZenFone, for instance.

Source: ARM IoT Blog

CES 2015: Samsung Monitors and ATIV Computers

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2015 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: UD970, Samsung, S34E790C, ces 2015, ATIV One 7 Curved, ATIV Book 9, ativ

I was invited to a meeting with Samsung on my last day at CES.  The Samsung Pavilion was absolutely packed, but I was able to see a handful of products that should pique the interest of people that are passionate about their monitor technology.  I was led around by Sara and we checked out not only a few monitors, but the latest ATIV PC products.

Up until this point, I thought curved TVs were a gimmick.  I still think curved TVs are a gimmick.  For a living room seating multiple people that will have a different angle to the TV, I believe a flat screen is still the best overall experience.  When it comes to PC usage, my mind has been thoroughly changed.

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Samsung has forged ahead with a curved 21:9 panel that they give the very unwieldy product name of S34E790C.  This is a 34” VA based panel that features a resolution of 3440x1440.  This is not quite 4K resolution, and of course it features the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio.  This means that it is a bit easier on a video card than a full 4K monitor.  This is simply a stunning looking unit.  The design features a thin bezel and a really solid looking base that adds to the aesthetic rather than detracts.  The rear ports include two HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2, 3.5 mm audio output, power, and a 4 port USB 3.0 hub.

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The base is a solid, curved unit that allows users to raise and lower the panel.  The bezels are again relatively thing so that multiple monitors can be placed together without the bezels becoming distracting.  The unit also features a 100x100 mm VESA mount so that other stands can be used with this monitor.

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Three of these monitors together would make for a tremendous Surround or Eyefinity setup.  There would have to be some serious horsepower in terms of graphics to push that many pixels though.  The curve is not extreme in the least, and the monitors curve around the user in a subtle way.  This would be outstanding for flight sims, racing, and pretty much any game that can utilize a wide FOV.  Samsung showed five of these together, and they blend nearly seamlessly together.  This monitor currently retails around $1400, but MSRP is supposed to be $1,199 US.

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On the professional side they were showing the UD970.  This monitor was released around mid-year in 2014, but they were happy to put it on exhibit at CES.  This is a 3840x2160 (4K) monitor that is aimed directly at professionals with color calibration done at the factory.  When this comes out of the box, it should be in good enough shape to start working directly on professional applications which require a nicely calibrated monitor.  This monitor is the typical flat style rather than the curved unit described above.

 

The ATIVs

Away from the monitors Samsung was showing off their latest all-in-one.  The ATIV One 7 Curved is a 27” AIO that features the latest Intel i5 processor (Broadwell) with the HD 5500 graphics option.  It has 8 GB of memory and a 1 TB hybrid HD (flash and spinning 5400 RPM drive) and runs Windows 8.1.  The screen is a 1080P unit, which is a little disappointing considering the availability of fairly affordable 1440P panels, but that extra cost would drive up price from the very reasonable $1,299 MSRP.

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The machine seemed very snappy and the curved screen again seems very appropriate for PC usage.  Since the user is fairly close, the curve does allow better use of peripheral vision.  The unit is only about 1.5” deep, so we can see exactly why they are using a Broadwell based chip which does not require a tremendous amount of cooling.  It features HDMI in and out ports for use with consoles and other display options.  There are also two 10 watt speakers integrated into the machine which will provide for some pretty impressive integrated sound.  Most speakers in this class are around 2 to 4 watts, so by putting in a couple of 10 watt units there will not be a need by most people to utilize other speaker peripherals.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this product is the SideSync 3.0 software platform.  This application allows users to control their Samsung based Android device.  The demonstration I was given used the Galaxy S5.  The user will see a representation of the phone on their screen and they have access to all of the applications installed on the phone.  Here is what Samsung has to say about SideSync 3.0:

“Through SideSync 3.0, ATIV One 7 Curved users can receive phone calls and text messages forwarded from their Samsung smartphone right to their PC. Users can also control their smartphone from their PC screen, mouse and keyboard through SideSync 3.0’s sharing mode, as well as share content between devices with Samsung Link 2.0. This means that users can save all of their photos, videos, music and more in the ATIV One 7 Curved’s ample 1TB flash drive, and then easily access it from other devices from anywhere in the home.”

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The demonstration was actually pretty slick and it is useful.  It was really funny to see the cursor go from the screen and over to the smartphone and be able to click on the programs icons.

The final product shown to me was the ATIV Book 9.  This is a 12.2” laptop that weighs in at a pretty light 2.09 lbs.  It has a very dense screen that is 2560x1600.  Samsung is bringing back the 16:10 aspect ratio as they found it more useful for productivity work on this particular laptop.  The laptop features the new Broadwell based Intel Core M 5Y70 processor with 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and around 10.5 hours of battery life.  This particular configuration goes for around $1,400 US when it is released this quarter.

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This probably would have been a much more impressive looking laptop if I had not seen the Dell XPS 13 with an edge to edge display.  That model is around 11” wide and weighs slightly more at 2.6 pounds (2.8 pounds with the touchscreen version).  Still, the ATIV Book 9 is an impressive performer with its 2560x1600 screen and half pound less weight.

After all is said and done, I really want 3 x S34E790Cs.  Now if I can only get more desk space and a couple graphics cards that can push that resolution.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Samsung

CES 2015: Deepcool Tristellar and Pentower Mini-ITX Cases Launched with Outlandish Designs

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 9, 2015 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: mini-itx, enclosure, Deepcool, ces 2015, CES, cases

Deepcool has announced a couple of new mini-ITX enclosures, and they are anything but average.

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The Deepcool Tristellar (Credit: Legit Reviews)

First we have one of the wildest looking enclosures at I’ve ever seen (other than the In Win D-Frame mini), and it looks very much like an Imperial shuttle (ROTJ, anyone?). With three sections connected to a central hub, the Tristellar has the look of some sort of spacecraft, and would appear at first glance to be rather complicated to build in (though I'd love to find out first-hand).

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Exploded view of the Tristellar (Credit: Legit Reviews)

The enclosure was featured as the basis of an upcoming gaming system from CyberPower, and it would indeed house a capable gaming machine with support for mini-ITX motherboards, full-size graphics cards, and standard ATX power supplies.

The second case is a little more conventional on the surface, but again we have a design that is quite a departure.

pentower.jpg

The Pentower enclosure (Credit: Legit Reviews)

The upright Pentower enclosure seems to borrow from the design of the latest-gen Mac Pro (albeit in a less cylindrical fashion), but is not built upon the Mac’s cooling design (in which the CPU and GPU are directly connected to the large central heatsink). Such a design seems ideal for this enclosure shape, but Deepcool has implemented their own air cooling system here.

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The Mac Pro’s thermal design (Credit: Apple, Inc)

With the Pentower standard components can be used and installation should be relatively easy since “after the shell is removed, all of the panels and trestles are exposed (and) users can install units directly without uninstall(ing) any other part of the case“, according to the press release.

There is no listing for the Tristellar or Pentower cases on the Deepcool website as of today, and naturally pricing and availability have not been announced.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Can the EVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2 break the trend?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 9, 2015 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: evga, supernova 1300, 80 Plus Gold, modular psu, kilowatt

[H]ard|OCP has not been impressed with EVGA's PSUs; they are not bad but do not tend to match the quality and pricing of the competition.  The new EVGA Supernova 1300 G2 is available for $180 and could buck this trend, it has a 10 year warranty, an 80 Plus Gold efficiency rating and it looks good on paper.  With the ability to provide a hair over 108 amps to its 12V line, eight 6 pin PCIe power connectors of which two can have the extra pair of plugs for 8 pin and solid performance it seems that EVGA has indeed produced a great power supply. [H]ard|OCP does not often award the Gold to PSUs but in this case thanks to the excellent build and power quality along with a very competitive price EVGA has produced a very good product for those who need serious power for their PC.

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"EVGA has a bit of a rocky road with HardOCP when it comes to PSU reviews. Today we give EVGA the opportunity to redeem itself with its 1300 watt powerhouse touting "exceptional efficiency" and a fully modular design that is "silent and optimized for the enthusiast." All this with a 10 year warranty? It must be a badass."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

CES 2015: Crucial launches new MX200, BX100 SSDs, intros Storage Executive

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2015 - 03:21 PM |
Tagged: Storage Executive, SM2246EN, MX200, Dynamic Write Acceleration, DWA, crucial, CES 2014, CES, BX100

At CES, I took a trip to the LVCC to be briefed us on a pair of new Crucial SSD models:

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The new MX200 is an evolution of the previous MX100 line, with the most notable addition being Dynamic Write Acceleration. DWA can flip dies between SLC and MLC mode on-the-fly, and is detailed in our previous write-up of the Crucial M600 SSD. While the performance was a bit inconsistent in our M600 review, there have likely been improvements if Crucial is putting this feature into their mainstream consumer line. Also interesting is how Crucial intends to package this product in mSATA and M.2 form factors - these have historically been reserved for their higher end M550 line and were not available in the MX100.

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Another addition is the BX100. For this drive, Crucial has decided on the Silicon Motion 2246EN, which should be able to let them get the costs lower than what is possible with the Marvell controller. As a budget targeted model, this one will only be available in the 2.5" SATA form factor. Below are the briefed specs from these two products;

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Another addition is a software solution dubbed 'Crucial Storage Executive'. This is basically their 'Toolbox' solution and handles reporting of S.M.A.R.T. data as well as firmware updates. Crucial has chosen to go the unique route of configuring this tool as a background service that is accessed through a web browser on the host system (most competing solutions are a standalone application).

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The best part of this launch is the pricing. Crucial SSDs have always been highly cost competitive, but look at that launch pricing on the BX100:

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That's $0.40/GB for what looks to be a very decent SSD. These two models are set to ship Q1 2015, so we'll likely see them within the next month or so.

The full press blast for these pair of SSD releases appears after the break.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Crucial

CES 2015: OCZ shows off new JetExpress SSD controller, Vector 180, Z-Drive 6000

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2015 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: Z-Drive 6000, Vector 180, ssd, SFF-8639, sata, pcie, ocz, NVMe, M.2, JetExpress, CES 2014, CES

At CES, we stopped by OCZ and were briefed on their new SSD controller, the JetExpress:

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As indicated on the placard, the JetExpress supports M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 is typically PCIe 2.0), and natively supports both SATA and PCIe / NVMe connectivity.

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I found out some more goodies about this new controller. Aside from being configurable during production to support SATA or PCIe, this is actually a 10 channel controller (SSDs are typically limited to 8 channels). The controller can support LDPC *in addition to* BCH error correction. This is important as LDPC requires more compute power and is slower than BCH, so OCZ is baking in the capability to use BCH early on, and transition over to LDPC as the flash wears to the point where BCH can no longer efficiently correct bad pages. This means the JetExpress should be able to maintain very high performance while extending flash life out with LDPC only when it's needed.

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Above is the Vector 180, which is launching soon. We are under NDA on this product, but nothing is stopping you from checking out the pic of what they had displayed above :).

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Here's the Z-Drive 6000, an SFF-8639 (PCIe 3.0 x4) 2.5" enterprise SSD. The PMC Sierra controller supports NVMe connectivity and power modes are switchable to enable even higher performance. Performance looks to be very competitive with the Intel P3700, rated at 3GB/sec reads and 2GB/sec writes, as well as 700,000 4k random read and 175,000 4k random write IOPS. Our next OCZ review should be of the Vector 180, but samples are not out yet, so stay tuned!

OCZ's press blast for the JetExpress launch appears after the break.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: OCZ
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ECS

The ECS Z97-Machine motherboard is one of the boards in ECS' L337 product line, offering in-built support for the Intel Z97 Express chipset. ECS rethought their board design with the Z97-Machine, creating a stripped down enthusiast-friendly product that does not compromise on any of the design areas important to the expected performance of the board. At an MSRP of $139.99, ECS hits a lucrative price-point that many other manufacturers have failed to reach with an integrated Intel Z97 chipset in light of the offered features and performance.

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Courtesy of ECS

The ECS Z97-Machine motherboard offers an interesting cost-to-performance proposition, cutting back on unnecessary features to keep the overall cost down while not sacrificing on quality of the core components. ECS designed the board with a 6-phase digital power delivery system, using high efficients chokes (ICY CHOKES), MOSFETs rated at up to 90% efficiency, and Nichicon-source aluminum capacitors for optimal board performance under any operating conditions. The Z97-Machine board offers the following in-built features: four SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) 10 Gb/s port; an Intel I218-V GigE NIC; two PCI-Express Gen3 x16 slots; 3 PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power and reset buttons; voltage measurement points; Realtek audio solution with ESS Sabre32 DAC; integrated VGA, DVI, and HDMI video port support; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z97-Machine motherboard!

Steelseries colourful Siberia Elite Prism headset

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2015 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, Siberia Elite Prism, steelseries

Don't worry if the orange ring on the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism headset turns you off as that is an LED which can be changed to one of 16.8 million colours which will shift or breath in time to your music.  The headset has a frequency response of 16-28000 Hz and the unidirectional microphone is retractable for when it is not in use.  The headset uses 3.5mm jacks and comes with adapters to allow you to plug it into a variety of mobile devices or into the USB soundcards which ships with the device when you are using it on a PC.  The soundcard is not as good as a dedicated DAC but does add functionality to the headset as well.  The noise cancellation will be appreciated in noisy environments but the headset is not for the completely antisocial as there is a 3.5mm jack on one earcup to allow a friend to plug in and share your music if you so desire.  You can see MadShrimps full review here.

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"Siberia Elite Prism is a slight improvement over the original Elite version which features better comfort for the ear-cups, a new, more flexible microphone, a slightly different color scheme for the white version but also a better design of the top frame. The bundled sound card can be used with PCs and laptops via USB, but the Elite Prism also comes with the necessary cables in order to connect the headset on analog to sound cards and mobile gadgets. SteelSeries Engine 3 makes configuration possible with a custom equalizer and many more…"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: MadShrimps

There's one born every minute; the sound quality of different storage medium

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2015 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: monster, idiots, audiophile

Believe it or not there is a review out on the interwebs claiming that "'bit-identical' computer audio may well be just as inexplicably inconsistent as analogue."  In other words some hard drives and SSDs will produce better quality audio than others using the exact same audio file.  Two different QNAP NAS devices apparently produced differing audio signals which the writer claims to be able to discern.  Not only that but apparently different HDDs or SSDs inside the NAS also has an effect on the audio flavinoids and topology.  If that is not enough for you then keep reading the link from The Register as they also propose the theory that different types of RAID will change the cromulence of the audio signal as well and while they stop short of describing the audio cables which were used they did stoop so low as to use Belkin CAT6 instead of a product from Monster.  If you believe this and own a mains conditioner for your audio you should definitely let The Register know you are interested in their proposed AudioNAS kickstarter.

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"Is it April already? I really cannot tell from this post, which poses the question: "Is it really possible that the sound quality of bit-identical audio files is influenced by their storage medium before being delivered to the hi-fi system's DAC?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

CES 2015: Mycestro Gesture Controller

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2015 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: mycestro, ces 2015, CES

I just saw a video for the “Mycestro”, pronounced somewhat like maestro, on IGN and it looks interesting. Basically, the device clings to your index finger and lets you use it as a pointer wand. Movement engages when the thumb touches the thumbpad, and it has three buttons below for click events (which apparently allows click and drag). Dragging your thumb against the thumbpad acts as scroll events.

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Seeing the reporter, Alaina Yee, attempting to use it makes it look a bit more precise than a Wii remote, but a definite step down from a mouse or even a trackpad. It looks like it could be annoying, or at least take some practice, to use in a desktop environment, but a home theater PC with a “20-foot UI” might benefit from the convenience (if it can be taken on and off easily).

On the other hand, it has the capability of tracking in 3D space, despite its current role as a mouse. An SDK is not yet available, but the company says that it is in development. Of course, if future applications is what you are interested in, you may want to wait until after the development kit is released to see what it actually supports.

The Mycestro is available now (and has been since November) at their website for $149.

Source: Mycestro

CES 2015: Audi & LG Partner on Smartwatch Running webOS

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: smartwatch, LG, ces 2015, CES, audi

There is a unique smartwatch at CES this year, which unfolds to become a camera quadcopter. I guess surprisingly, for some people, a selfie stick is not offbeat enough. And that's fine, more power to them.

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Image Credit: Android Central

There is also a second, unique smart watch at CES this year because it does not run Android (or iOS). The unnamed device, which is a collaboration between LG and Audi, is powered by webOS. In case you missed it, LG has licensed webOS from HP for use in its smart TVs. The operating system is open source under the permissive Apache license.

When Android Central was playing around with the watch, they noticed the listing of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC (MSM8626). The 8626 is a quad-core, ARM Cortex A7-based processor (up to 1.2 GHz) with a Qualcomm Adreno 305 GPU. This is a fair amount of power for a smartwatch, although core count and frequency could be reduced for battery life.

With Mobile World Congress coming up in February (update Jan 9th @ 11:30am: sorry for the mistake... it's the first week of March), we might see more details soon.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: ASUS Talks 500 Million Motherboard Mark, Ecosystem Goals

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 02:51 AM |
Tagged: video, ces 2015, CES, asus, 500 million motherboards

In 2014, ASUS crossed the 500 million motherboards sold mark for total units, an achievement to be proud of for certain. And while I would have thought that the awesome keychains made for the occasion that feature the X99-Deluxe on one side and the ISA-386C from 1989 on the other would be enough, ASUS is going to go further. Expect a several month long celebration that will feature unique content, prizes and giveaways as well as special edition hardware like the Sabertooth Z97 Mark S and its all white PCB.

I got the chance to speak with Dennis Pang about the 500 million mark, what the company sees as its vision for the immediate future and how it has used its experience to move into other consumer markets like keyboards, mice, monitors, networking and more.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Plextor announces M7e

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 01:44 AM |
Tagged: plextor, pcie, NVMe, Marvell 88SS9293, M7e, M6e Black, M.2, CES 2014, CES

Today Plextor announced the successor to the M6e (that we reviewed here) - the M7e:

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The M7e uses the same Marvell 88SS9293 that will be in Kingston's Hyperx Predator, and the performance is certainly impressive:

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1.4GB/sec reads and 1.0GB/sec writes. Plextor's demo compared to an identical testbed running a Samsung XP941, and the M7e was faster in nearly every performance trait.

Next up is a bit of a gorgeous refresh to the M6e - the M6e Black Edition:

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The above photo was taken HDR, so the Black Edition appears darker than in the above photo. This is basically a repackaging of the M6e, in a housing that should run much cooler. Plextor got a bit creative designing this one, and they even added a SATA power connector - an option for those who feel their motherboard may not be providing sufficient power over the PCIe connector. Here's an exploded diagram for your viewing pleasure:

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Plextor also announced an update to their DRAM caching solution, dubbed PlexTurbo 2.0:

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Cached speeds were certainly impressive here, showing a roughly 2x improvement over the initial release of their software.

The M7e does not launch until mid-2015, but the M6e Black Edition will be coming *much* sooner, and we will have a review of the latter up within the next few days.

Press blast for the M7e after the break.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Plextor

CES 2015: Silicon Motion SM2256 seen in action, capable of hybrid TLC/SLC caching

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 01:17 AM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2015, silicon motion, SM2256, ssd, tlc, slc

We first saw the Silicon Motion SM2256 controller at Flash Memory Summit, but now we've seen it live, in action, and driving several different types of TLC NAND.

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Silicon Motion had this live demo running on a testbed at their suite:

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The performance looked very good considering the 2256 is designed to efficiently push TLC flash, which is slower than MLC. As their representative was explaining that the SM2256 is currently being tested with Samsung, Toshiba, and SK Hynix TLC flash, I noticed the HDTune write trace:

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Those familiar with HDTune and Samsung SSDs with Samsung's TurboWrite cache (from the 840/850 EVO) will recognize the above - the SSD begins writing at SLC speed and after that cache is full, the SSD then drops to writing at TLC speed. I specifically asked about this, as we've only Samsung flash provisioned with an SLC portion of each die, and the answer was that Toshiba and SK Hynix TLC flash also supports such a subdivision. This is good news, as it means increased competition from competing SSDs that can accomplish the same SLC burst writes as the Samsung EVO series.

We heard from a few vendors that will soon be launching SM2256 equipped SSDs this year, and we eagerly await the opportunity to see what they are capable of.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!